This construction work has always intrigued me very much, and when visiting it personally, I could have an idea of its grandiosity. We are talking of the only human monument that can be seen from the Moon (that’s not true, is a legend of 1938, but our romantic side prefers to believe it is!), one of the most impressive military construction works that mankind has ever built, with almost 8.850 kilometers, according to the chinese (this number is very diverging- there is data showing more than 20.000 kilometers, but the most common number found is 6.684 kilometers). It has an incomparable symbolic significance in the history of China, preserving all the spiritual and architectural elements along all this years.
This series of several walls took approximately two millenniuns (and lots of dynasties) to be built, having as main objective to protect China from being invaded by the mongol and manchurian nomads at the time, but wasn’t successful on that (how it was not totally built, the invaders could easily bypass it)- some parts were even constructed because of those feudal conflicts, and little by little it was magnificently constructed. It served mainly to make the displacement of troops, food and animals easier, and its towers also developed a very efficient communication and alert system, using colored flags and smoke. Nowadays, it meanders along the Northeast of China, the Gobi desert and Mongolia, being today one of the main touristic points of China, and of course, its biggest pride.
The work force to build a colossus of this magnitude also presents numbers equally grands: more than a million workers, among those peasants, soldiers and mainly prisoners; but only 20% survived this construction work, due to the extremely severe conditions by that time. It was a kind of death sentence to be sent to work there, and many corrupt officials had this end.
In 1664, it got abandoned, and even invaded by mongols, xianbeis and other people. In 1980, it was retaken, and then started a big restoration work in many parts of it, but 2/3 of it is said to still be in ruins. Today it’s the biggest symbol of China’s grandiosity.
The Great Wall is not a single structure, and shows different features along its extension. At each while, you can find many passes along, surveillance towers and fortresses, offering to the chinese a dominant view position, immediately perceiving the approach of the enemy (nowadays it’s not so helpful, because China’s worst enemies are no longer humans…).
In 2007, it was considered one of The Seven New Wonders of the World, and since 1986 it’s registered as World Heritage by Unesco.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are two sections that offer good infra-structure for visitors (the following posts will be about each one specifically, how to get there, timetable, features…): Badaling– the nearest to Beijing, 1h30min, the most crowded, because it offers public transport, and Mutianyu, not so far from the other one, doesn’t offer public transport until there, so it has a little bit less people (I said just a little bit, don’t get too excited!). There are other access sections, but these two are the main ones, and the most indicated for those persons like me, who have kids and cannot adventure yourselves on wild places anymore.
These two sections offer cable cars to make the climb easier. In Mutianyu, you go with your feet dangling on the air (and in my case, trying not to drop my daughter!), but if you prefer to feel the amazing sensation that must be to climb all those very steep steps all the way up there, good luck (and tell me later!). To come back, you can choose between the cable car again, or to slide in a very fun and safe toboggan (again, the mommy spirit), with a stop-and-go car. The most indicated periods to visit are the months of april/may and september/october, with mild temperatures, not too hot or too cold.
But, above all, the best tip I can give you is: DON’T GO IN THE AFTERNOON, BECAUSE ALL THE EXCURSION BUSES GET THERE BY THIS TIME!!!! A splendid time to get there is about 9 a.m., or earlier, the most part of the visitors start coming after 11…Your pictures will be awesome, without all those snoopy persons, that simply don’t notice there are other ones trying to capture good images! These hotel tours go to Ming Tombs, jade selling stores, silk museums, have lunch, and after all that, they take you to the already crowded Walls, but this are all “take-tourists” tours, and are not so cheap, so don’t fall on this ones!!!!!!PS- you’re welcome 😉
This is one of that tours of a lifetime, and should really be on your “Bucket list”, because walking on the Great Wall of China is to have the vivid sensation of being part of the impressive history of this part of the world, deeply experiencing it in all its commas and counterpoints. And as said Mao Zedong: “Who has never walked on the Great Wall, is not a real man.”